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How Things Are: A Science Tool-Kit for the Mind Paperback – December 16, 1996


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 303 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; 1st edition (December 16, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0688149510
  • ISBN-13: 978-0688149512
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,046,879 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

These 34 short, succinct, deceptively simple essays by eminent scientists provide a wonderful entry into scientific thought and discovery. Some of the selections impart basic understanding of the world around us?for example, why water is crucial to the emergence and persistence of life; to what extent DNA determines an individual's traits; and symmetries in cell structures, crystals and physical forces. Other pieces deal with more fundamental questions. Physicist Paul Davies investigates whether time suddenly "switched on" with the Big Bang. Anthropologist Milford Wolpoff explores evolutionary links between humans and apes. Contributors include biologists Lynn Margulis, Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Dawkins, anthropologist Mary Catherine Bateson, cosmologist Alan Guth. Turning to the future, demographer Joel Cohen predicts a drastic, inevitable decline in global population growth, while paleontologist Niles Eldredge ponders the possibility that war, famine, disease or ecological devastation will make humans extinct. Brockman (The Third Culture) and Matson (Short Lives) are literary agents.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

This is one of many books aimed at promoting the science literacy of the general public. Over 30 academic experts with a wide range of specialties contributed brief essays intended to stimulate readers' intellect and curiosity. The editors expect that in surveying these essays readers will begin to grasp the scientific method and understand the thought processes used to make hypotheses and arrive at conclusions. The essays reflect the expertise of their respective authors, who include zoologist Stephen Jay Gould, physicist Paul Davies, and chemist Robert Shapiro, but the book as a whole lacks a focal point. Limiting the articles to a single discipline would have been a better approach. A possible candidate for public libraries.?Bruce Slutsky, New Jersey Inst. of Technology Lib., Newark
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Michael JR Jose on April 4, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Thirty-four writers present a short essay, typically four or five pages long, each on their specialist subject or subjects. Many of them succeed brilliantly and repay respectful re-readings.
However, this is a difficult book to review since, as the title suggests, it is both broad and ambitious. Although there is no real danger of acquiring a full 'science toolkit for the mind', there is a splendid amount of well-presented science herein, and the best parts really do what the title suggests, and will teach you how to critique the not-so-good parts if you are persistent enough, which is even more entertaining than watching Star Wars and Lord of the Rings back-to-back. To score the book as a whole I gave each essay a mark in the range from one to five. The mean essay score is 3.2, but ten of the essays scored 5/5, so I give it an easy 5 stars on a value-for-money basis. (The modal mark is 5, the median 3. Six essays scored 1, six scored 2, eight scored 3, four scored 4. The essay on quarks by Alan H. Guth baffles me, so that might well be a five too for all I know, but I gave it a one on the basis that he should not be so out of step with the others - I understood the other three or four physics essays well enough.)
My top ten essays are:
1. 'What Happened Before the Big Bang?', by Paul Davies (physics).
2. 'The Joy of Water', by P.W. Atkins (physical chemistry).
3. 'Who Do We Blame For What We Are?', Jack Cohen (genetics: how DNA really works and why Jurassic Park cannot happen).
4. 'The Puzzle of Averages', by Michael S. Gazzaniga (danger in calculating averages from raw data and assigning meaning to results. Cases studies from psychology of language development in children, and physiology of human brain asymmetry.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By phil602@flash.net on June 5, 1999
Format: Paperback
This book presents a great variety of short essays written by top scientists. Each essay is just a few pages long, and I was able to understand all but one very well. (I have no background in science.) I've already ordered several of them from my local library.
And here's what I liked best: At the end of each essay is a short bio sketch of the scientist/author. Included in those bios are the titles of other books written by those authors...and most of them write science books for laymen.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By S.Venkatesan on July 19, 2000
Format: Paperback
As the introduction puts it exactly : Reading the essays is like overhearing a conversation among scientists dining at a nearby table. The book of a set of essays by great scientists. Each essay is short and focused. Each scientist's biographical details are given. All have tried to write to layman. The major themes are : Thinking about science, Origins, Evolution, Mind, Cosmos and the Future. My own interest in the theme of mind. They are essays by Shank, Dennett , Hao Wang and others. There is a interesting essay by Gelernter titled " Study Talmud". It actually discusses about ALGOL Report & evolution of PASCAL language. The issue of identity in internet is explored in an essay. Ian Stewart explains about symmetry. Every library should have a copy of the book.
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